Shows like “We’re Here” provide an outlet for LGBTQIA+ individuals to express their sexuality in an opportunity they may not have had otherwise. Specifically for the Temecula episode of “We’re Here,” I think I take on an interesting perspective, as Temecula is my hometown. Temecula was chosen for this episode due to the city being a small “Bible Belt.” While I do not identify within the LGBTQIA+ community, I have seen how queer individuals were treated in Temecula, some of them being my own friends. Temecula is not as accepting as other cities in California. Shows that strive to exemplify these marginalized individuals in cities that are not accepting of the community is a major step in a positive direction for media representation. This show gave those a push that may have changed their lives for the better.
The show did not shy away from the entire process of creating drag queens of these individuals. Viewers saw the struggle and difficulty with accepting who they were. Viewers also saw the eventual acceptance and how the effects of the community they were living in brought them to this point today. Media in the past will mention any queer language or characters as an afterthought or not even include gay characters at all. “We’re Here” has achieved the opposite in the best way possible. The series exposes the raw emotions that are often edited out of the media. The lack of representation of LGBTQIA+ individuals makes “We’re Here” refreshing. Typically, the media represents the queer characters as meek, submissive, and resentful. On the contrary, “We’re Here” gives the power to the queer characters by providing an outlet to express themselves. In turn, they are interpreted as powerful, ambitious, and confident.
In the Temecula episode, Jake’s mom, Michelle, became a focal point of his self-confidence journey. Michelle is not an LGBTQIA+ individual, but remained an ally to her son. She was anti-drag at first, but participated in the show at the end of the episode. Focusing on the families of LGBTQIA+ individuals is a narrative often discarded yet so impactful to the personal growth of queer characters. Many feel uncomfortable coming out to their family, especially in a time of adolescence when expressive sexuality is deemed as a “phase.” This detrimental representation of queer individuals and the lack of representation of these families’ stories. Including more positive representations of gay relationships can open the dialogue for those that self-identify as an ally.
In qualitative research, I believe that both visual and textual analyses can be sufficient methods to study intersectionality and representation of gender, race, and sexuality. One example of a study that explores these variables is Dr. Nathian Shae Rodriguez’ textual analysis on Fox’s Empire. Driven by Quare theory, this study considered the intersections of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation. It was revealed that tropes of gay men not being “real men” due to their sexuality were extremely prevalent. Additionally, results yielded that the media represented gay sexuality as a phase or something that can be cured. Similarly, this method can be used for additional LGBTQIA+ studies.
Studying intersectionality can help deconstruct disruptive discriminations in the media. Mass media research did not focus on these kinds of analyses until the mid 2000’s. Studying this phenomena can foster a deeper understanding of human connection. Furthermore, talk shows were studied to understand intersectional frameworks. Talk shows were seen as gender-based with a feminist foundation. Talk shows such as Oprah Winfrey and Jerry Springer are examples of media representation that strayed away from a preoccupation on gender. Studying this idea in a field of mass communication can help scholars delve deeper in human connection, and how increasing representation in the media can positively impact the self-confidence of queer individuals. We are taught that the media we consume makes a large impression on our overall well-being.
I am grateful to the School of Journalism and Media Studies for providing the opportunity to have an open discussion on rather sensitive topics. The screening of “We’re Here” opened my perception of a town that I grew up in for a majority of my life. Watching the episode confirmed my experiences with my friends as LGBTQIA+ individuals. I hope to see the media represent marginalized communities in the future in the same manner that “We’re Here” did.